Tuesday’s Rim Country Business Awards started with a somber reminder — a two-minute video slide show of people waiting in line for food, out of work and boarded up businesses. Halfway through, though, the video took a turn, the music lightened, images changing to those of happy faces and inspirational quotes of persistence and hope.
The message, although hokie, was clear: through tough times, there is hope on the other side.
Those businesses honored Tuesday have showed that through hard work and service, you can survive one of the worst economic times in recent history and come out the other side stronger, organizers said.
Those honored as this year’s best included Messinger Payson Funeral Home, Home Depot and several local business leaders.
Messinger Payson Funeral Home took home the title of Small Business of the Year. Messinger, a family-owned business out of Scottsdale, opened a new funeral home and meeting space off Main Street in June 2011.
Also nominated in the small business category were Mattress Experts and Payson Farmers Market.
Mattress Experts, which opened in 2010, is one of the few Tempur-Pedic dealers nationwide recognized by the company in sales. The store is co-owned by Kristine McCormack and Cindy Gregory.
Gregory also took home the honor of Jim Young Businessperson of the Year Tuesday.
The Jim Young award is given every year to someone who demonstrates high morale and integrity, said event organizers.
Gregory not only runs a successful business, she works tirelessly in the community. She helped with the Payson Community Kids coat drive the last two years, sponsored the restoration of town benches on Main Street and is an ambassador for the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“Most recently, Gregory helped spearhead the drive to get donations for the Payson Community Kids street paving, involving many of the other businesses in this effort in the community,” said master of ceremonies John Landino.
Gregory thanked McCormack, the chamber of commerce and the Roundup for their support.
Another award winner Tuesday was Stephanie Creasy, general manager of the Best Western, with the Pat Willis Award for Business Excellence.
Creasy, who has a degree in hotel and restaurant management, joined the staff at Best Western Payson Inn in 2003, where her mother worked as the general manager.
When her mother retired in 2009, Creasy assumed the reins, overseeing the everyday operations of the hotel and staff.
In her acceptance speech, Creasy thanked her mother and said her strong work ethic had influenced her.
Another big award winner Tuesday was Buzz Walker, who was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The award honors someone who has worked to improve the community for at least 20 years, Landino said.
Walker has played a hand in nearly every major development in Payson since the 1970s.
He helped develop the Payson water system master plan and the Main Street beautification project, adding streetlights, benches and trees. He worked on the Green Valley Park water reclamation program and in 1990, helped build the chamber of commerce and water department customer service building. He served as Payson’s public works director, airport manager and facilities manager.
In addition, he not only established a $4.3 million water development trust fund for the town, he assisted in bring Gila Community College to town and C.C. Cragin Reservoir water, Landino said.
Walker said all of those projects were a team effort and that is all he ever wanted to do — work successfully on a team.
The last business award handed out Tuesday went to The Home Depot, who was honored as the Large Business of the Year.
Store manager David P. Kane said he was proud of his team and proud to work with them. He said the company had always valued giving back and the Payson Home Depot team has consistently done just that.
Chapman Auto Center and Hospice Compassus were finalists in the large business category.